Tag Archives: shirley maclaine

The Little Mermaid (2018)

A young reporter, Cam, and his sickly niece Elle take a night off from closely monitoring her health (a persistent cough that causes her to fall to the floor ahem), to take in the circus that’s just come to town. Among the elephant and fortuneteller lurks an even greater mysery: a real live mermaid, Elizabeth.

She’s kept in a tank and it looks pretty real, but it must be some trick, right? Wrong. This mermaid is being kept in slavery by the evil carnival barker, and it’s up to Elle, who idolizes her, and Cam, who’d like to, um, romance her, to save her.

You might have been excited to know that a live-action version of The Little MermaidMV5BYzA5ODc3MTctNmQwNC00YjdhLTgxNTEtZTczYTQyMTQ4N2RlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjQ3NTcyNzQ@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,745_AL_ was hitting Netflix, but that would make you a fool. It’s an abomination. The plot is as poor as the production values. Seriously, the special effects were short-bus special, and the effect was that I hated it, and felt embarrassed on its behalf.

Pointless, absolutely, but also completely boring. Kids won’t have the patience for it, and parents won’t have the forgiveness. The rest of us are just chumps for watching. If I had a mermaid tail, I’d flip it dismissively as I swam decisively away. If I’d lost my voice in exchange for legs, I’d flip it the bird. If I suddenly used a fork as a comb, well, I’d get on the short bus because mermaids are the least of my trouble.

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Wild Oats

Eva is a grieving widow who doesn’t even get through her husband’s funeral before her daughter is reminding her of unpaid hospital bills and a home that isn’t worth much before significant sprucing. So can we really blame her when she cashes the 50K insurance cheque even though it’s accidentally made out for 5 million? Nope!

Eva (Shirley MacLaine) vanishes into the night with her friend Maddie (Jessica Lange), their eyes set on a luxury resort in Spain. Maddie is sick, her days numbered, and her Wild-Oats_poster_goldposter_com_2-702x336husband’s just left her for a secretary a fraction of her age. Eva’s been caring for her sick husband for a long time, so washes away her guilty feelings with generous dosages of mojitos and embraces the mistake, determined to live it up. These two chiquitas have nothing to lose so it’s all blackjack and boy toys until a) a dashing Billy Connolly enters the picture and b) the fuzz are on their tail. Well, not so much the fuzz as the insurance company trying to reclaim their losses, but you get the picture.

Is this a brilliant movie? No it isn’t. It’s kind of like Going In Style for old biddies, an adventure for senior citizens that’s exactly as predictable as you’d think. Lange and MacLaine are ludicrously charming but they deserve better material. They’re able to polish a few pieces of coal into diamonds thanks to their professionalism and gung-ho spirit, but for every high, there’s a low. I found it a perfectly inoffensive time-waster, but this movie will really only appeal to people who always wondered what How Stella Got Her Groove back would be like if Stella was an 84 year old white lady.

 

 

Asshole Ethics 101: would you cash the cheque, or report it?

 

The Last Word

the last word 2So, Harriet (Shirley MacLaine) likes things done a certain way. She gets so impatient with those who can’t follow her instructions that she often winds up having to do everything herself as she frequently pushes her gardener, cook, and hairdresser aside. So it should come as not surprise that she would want final say on her own obituary.

Enter Anne (Amanda Seyfried), the aspiring writer who Harriet hires to write her obituary. It’s not an easy job. Not just because Harriet is a demanding micro-manager. Despite all her considerable success, everyone Anne interviews about her-even her priest- hates her. So an 81 year-old who’s spent her life being nasty to people sets out to use the time she has left to rewrite her own history, dragging the almost-always exasperated Anne along for the ride.

If you’ve heard of this movie at all, by now you’ve probably heard that it’s pretty bad. And it really kind of is. But I honestly think there is a really good idea for a movie hidden somewhere within this unapologetically trite screenplay. One of the movie’s better scenes features a hilariously confident Harriet barging in on an independent radio station making a shockingly effective case for why she should be hired as a DJ. They give her a chance and it’s kind of awesome.

the last wordIn the right hands, a dramedy featuring the 82 year-old MacLaine playing an unlikely host of a radio show for hipsters could be a lot of fun, which The Last Word generally isn’t. More importantly though, making this subplot the actual plot might have given the movie some much-needed focus. Because for a movie about making every moment count, The Last Word has an astonishing number of throwaway scenes and uninspired subplots.

So in a comedy with no real focus except that Life is Precious So Don’t Waste It, it falls on its stars to keep it watchable. And although “watchable” may be a strong word for a movie like this, MacLaine’s still got it. Actually, to carry any movie in your 80s is pretty impressive and I give her full credit for finding a way to breathe some life into a character that would otherwise have been too vaguely written to be interesting. Seyfried isn’t exactly bad so much as she just doesn’t do anything to really help make Anne stand out from any of the other Millennials who have learnt valuable and unexpected life lessons from seniors in the movies lately.

MacLaine does impressive wok but neither the script or her co-stars are there to back her up.

 

 

Workplace Movies

TMPThursday Movie Picks, sponsored as ever by Wandering Through the Shelves, is brought to us this week by the letter W – for movies set in the workplace.

Matt

Office gossip can be addictive. Most people wind up spending most of their time talking about work when they spend time with their colleagues outside the office. Actually, three of the Assholes work in the same place and- when we’re not arguing about movies we’re often reminiscing (or ranting) about work. Even people who claim to hate their job tend to find the comedy and drama of any workday pretty interesting. All you need to do is capture that environment in a relatable way and you’ve got a pretty good movie.

The ApartmentThe Apartment (1960)- This has been one of my most significant Blind Spots until this week and it was worth the wait. Jack Lemmon plays an accountant at a big firm who’s just trying to get noticed. Once his superiors find out that he has a modest but nice apartment conveniently located on the Upper West Side, he becomes their go-to guy as they start borrowing his key so they can discreetly cheat on their wives. Director Billy Wilder has a lot to say about the compromises people make in the name of ambition and manages to make a movie that is still funny after all these years while he’s saying it. Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine are as charming as can be too.

Office Space (1999)- Turning an animated short into a live action feature-length film could have Office Spacebeen a disaster but Beavis and Butt-head creator Mike Judge turned any old boring day into the office into one of the funniest comedies of the 90s. Re-watching it this week, I laughed loudest when Gary Cole’s Bill Lumbergh- in an effort to pacify the troops- announces that Friday will be Hawaiian Shirt Day. Around our office, they charge us two dollars to wear jeans on Friday. I couldn’t help feeling bad for poor old Milton though.

MargMargin Callin Call (2011)- Yet another movie that I’m thankful to Wanderer for giving me an excuse to finally check out this week. Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci, Jeremy Irons, and Kevin Spacey (making my list two weeks in a row) play investment bankers who see the writing on the wall leading up to the 2008 Financial crisis and sit around wondering what to do about it. Director J. C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year) knows how to set the mood and the performances are all stellar.

Jay

Up In The Air – Poor Ryan Bingham is so afraid of real life that he’s made sure his job keeps him in constant motion. His office may be at a cruising altitude of 32 000 feet but he spends a lot of George-Clooney-Whattime visiting other people’s workplaces to tell them they’re no longer employed. This is such a tough job that cash-strapped businesses are still willing to pay big bucks during a recession for him to do it in their place. He sees offices at their very worst, smells the fear and senses the instability, and is the receptacle for sometimes 20 years’ worth of pain and frustration. Our identities can be so wrapped up in our work, and in many ways, Ryan (George Clooney) is the prime example of this. Director Jason Reitman bravely tackles those creeping workplace notions of downsizing and obsolescence and asks some tough questions of the aging American workforce.

The Social Network – I love how you see the growth of the company here, the “offices” originally facebookin a Harvard dorm room, and then graduating quite quickly to the impressive work space that was eventually needed. The movie recounts a very modern invention (hello, Facebook) but its workplace themes are as old as the first profession – loyalty, jealousy, theft, power, the complicated ownership of ideas. Whether friends or enemies, friended or unfriended, colleagues or competition, this project is always work, and everybody wants to get paid.

Brokeback Mountain – The classic office romance. They meet by the photocopier, lock eyes over the  on, thwater cooler, exchange business cards in the elevator…or, you know, not. Don’t you wish your office looked like this? The scenery is breathtaking but mabrokebackke no mistake: these two cowboys meet at work, doing a job that’s not altogether welcoming to “their kind.” When their boss gets an inkling of what’s going on, the work dries up and the two spend the rest of their lives stealing secret moments and steeling themselves with memories of the best job they ever had. monsters

Bonus pick: Monsters, Inc. Sully and Mike are about as close as two colleagues can be. Mike is the more ambitious of the two, but it’s Sully’s talent and skill that make them so successful. The workplace is originally competitive, and tinged with the fear of contamination (they do bio-hazardous work with children). It may be a cartoon about fuzzy monsters, but any joke about paperwork in triplicate is likely to land huge with adult audiences.

Sean:

Since Matt took Office Space and Jay took Up in the Air, I am sticking to familiar territory and making my section an all-lawyer-movie workplace bonanza!

Philadelphia – a great movie about a lawyer getting kicked out of his workplace, and then going to his other workplace, the court, to try to make things right.  Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington absolutely own this movie.  I actually did not see this until last year and I should have seen it way sooner, because it’s excellent.

A Few Good Men – I saw this in theatres, I owned it on VHS, I own it on DVD, and one of my roommates in university recited the “You can’t handle the truth!” speech every time he had more than three drinks.  And I could watch it again tomorrow.  There are so many good lines and so many good characters in here that it remains enjoyable to this day.   And again there are a few workplaces in here, namely the courts and the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

The Firm – Tom Cruise is probably the best lawyer ever, at least if you go by his on-screen performances.  He almost got Dawson and Downey freed and in the Firm he somehow outmaneuvers a whole team of crooked lawyers and the mob while still adhering to his strict ethical code.  Plus he does a lot of really fast running in the Firm which is always the best part of any Tom Cruise performance.  This movie feels really long, because it is, but it’s still a good watch.

Anyone had an office love? Office hook up? Office BFFs?

Dance Movies: The Rejects…er, I mean, The Leftovers

Not all dance movies are created equal.

Although I was a graceful and gifted dancer myself, when I was three and thought tutus were the object of pure happiness, I cannot confess to a love of ballet (although I recently took one in at the Nation Arts Centre, based on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian sci-fi novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which was exactly as bad as it sounds) or of ballet movies. I watched The Turning Point with an almost open mind because Anne Bancroft! Shirley MacLaine! But still I felt kinopoisk.ruoverwhelmingly meh. I mean, the dynamic between the two women was pretty great. Shirley MacLaine was a ballerina herself but she gave it up to marry and have children (and possibly to prove that her dancer boyfriend wasn’t gay). Her friend has the career she always envisioned for herself, but now that the friend is getting older, she’s also getting edged out of the company (and by Shirley MacLaine’s daughter, irony of ironies). So both have regret, both sort of envy the other’s life. But there’s just an awful lot of ballet in there (excerpts from 7). For fans of Sex and the City, it’s kind of fun to see Carrie’s Russian do the thing we always knew he did, but the novelty wore off for me quickly and it just kept going (although also interesting that SJP is a mainstay of these dance movies as well!)

Girls Just Want To Have Fun is the SJP movie you forget to be glad you’ve never seen. You haven’t seen it, have you? She plays this kid who’s new in town and wants nothing more than to make it on “Dance TV” so her new friend Helen Hunt (who apparently always sounded like somebody’s 40ish bitter ex-wife) convinces her to try out. Turns out she’s a dancer AND a girls-just-want-to-have-fun-4gymnast, which means there’s going to be some truly putrid body double work each and every time her character decides to turn a cart-wheel – and she decides it A LOT. Oh the leotards, the leg warmers, the big hair, and Helen Hunt’s pineapple earrings. Oh, and a 12 year old Shannen Doherty before she got her Hollywood teeth. What’s not to love? Everything! Everything is not to love, but especially the title, which bears no relation to the film, other than wanting to use the song, but not the actual Cyndi Lauper version, which might have made sense. This girl just wanted it to end.

Baz Luhrmann likes to call Strictly Ballroom the first in his Red Curtain trilogy (along with Romeo + Juliet, and Moulin Rouge!) but if you’re expecting anything like those other movies, boy are you ballroomin for some stinging disappointment. No recognizable actors, no recognizable tunes. It’s just a generic ugly duckling story, but will boring ballroom dancing. A plain novice dancer pairs up with an experienced but experimental dancer to win a championship that their unorthodox moves render them technically ineligible for. And if you think regular ballroom dancing’s boring, wait until the power goes out and the music fails. Sean fell totally and completely asleep.

First Position is a documentary I caught on Netflix. I actually quite enjoyed it as it follows young ballet dancers trying to get noticed by prestigious schools and dance companies. I was particularly struck by the parents – sure there are your typical dance moms who cry at the very firstthought of their kids choosing childhood over ballet, but there’s also a dad who took a 6 month tour of duty in Iraq rather than a 2 year stint on a naval base where his son wouldn’t be able to train, and a mother who stays up late dyeing the “flesh” coloured parts of her daughter’s costumes brown, to match her skin. These kids are super dedicated and we see a lot of the sacrifices their families make to get them where they are, but in this case I might argue that we didn’t see enough ballet – or at least not enough to understand why some failed while others succeeded.

 

Mother-Daughter Movies

TMPIt’s time for Thursday movie picks! This week we’re covering movies featuring mother-daughter relationships, which means I for one have been through about 6 boxes of tissues while deciding which are my absolute favourites. Thanks once again to spectacular blogger Wandering Through the Shelves for hosting this weekly meeting of the minds.

Matt

While I’m relieved not to be watching live-action fairy tales or YA movies anymore, this was harder than I thought. About a month ago, I had no trouble making a list of classic father-son dynamics but to mother-daughter relationships- that call for not one but two great roles for women- are a little harder to find in Hollywood.

Mamma Mia! At first, my strategy was to name as many Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton moviesmm7_L as I could. This only got me a third of the way there when I remembered Mamma Mia!, the only American movie on my list. Judge me all you want but I love this musical. Yes, the cast was clearly chosen for their comic timing and definitely not their singing voices but their energy with the help of lots of Abba music make this a party I wish I was at. When searching for the father she never knew, a 20 year-old soon-to-be bride comes to realize how little she appreciated the mother who brought her up all by herself.

Jay: Consider yourself judged, Matt.

The Piano Teacher The dynamic between mother and daughter can be as messed up as any piano-teacherand who better to explore just how bad it can get than Austrian director Michel Hanake. Never afraid to make his audience squirm, Hanake (Funny Games) cast Annie Giradot as a mom that makes Carrie’s look permissive. Isabelle Huppert plays a forty-something pianist who shares not only an apartment but a bed with her controlling, perfectionist, and manipulative mother. All this withholding and repression leads to some pretty bizarre behaviour when the daughter meets a young man that she can’t help but be attracted to. Watching it can be an uncomfortable experience but it’s never dull and is sure to inspire lively discussions- even debates.

Volver Penelope Cruz got her first Oscar nomination for Pedro Almodovar’s 2006 Spanish volver-cruz-cobocomedy-drama. Carmen Maura plays mother to both Cruz and Lola Duenas, seemingly back from the dead to seek the forgiveness of her estranged daughter. There’s some serious stuff here but Volver is also surprisingly funny. It’s a hard film to categorize but an easy one to love.

 

Sean

terms_of_endearment_3_maclaine_wingerTerms of Endearment – I saw this movie for the first time yesterday and right away I wondered how I had not seen it before. The opening credits contain so many recognizable names and everyone lives up to expectations. It is not an easy movie to watch because it seems so real. It’s not often a happy movie but it’s so genuine and for that reason above all else I think it will stick with me for a while. I highly recommend it to anyone else who hasn’t seen it.

Spanglish I didn’t even realize until now that this was also written and directed by James L. Brooks (just like Terms of Endearment). Score two for him because this movie is also fantastic. Like Terms of Endearment, it is also not very happy but comparing these movies is a disservice to both. Spanglish stands on its own as a story of true love and sacrifice. Just don’t watch these two movies back to back as you may never recover from all the heartbreak.1112065277

Jay: I can’t believe I let you do this one! I love Spanglish because their cultural isolation really pits the two of them against the world. Even when they occasionally hate each other, they’re still each other’s entire universe, and when other options start to present themselves, this mother is prepared to make the hard choices. You know this movie gets me every time, to see how close the mother gets to love and fulfillment but turns her back on it because she knows it’s best for her daughter.

Freaky Friday (1976) The third slot was a tough one because while I watched several other Freaky-Friday-classic-disney-18104673-900-506mother-daughter movies this week, I felt the other tearjerkers didn’t hit the mark. I went another way. I have to make 100% clear that this is the original Freaky Friday, not the remake. I did not see this movie as a kid, mainly because I confused it with the Friday the 13th series and horror movies terrified me. It’s very dated but it’s fun to see a young Jodie Foster try to act like a regular kid and then do a very accurate impression of herself as adult who happens to be pretending to be a regular kid.

Jay

I’m having a tough time paring down this list. I watched Autumn Sonata (Ingrid fucking Bergman!) which succeeds in being uncomfortable and intense despite subtitles. And I watched Imitation of Life, which pitted parenting styles against each other with equally depressing results. And I watched Because I Said So because frankly, how could I not? As Matt pointed out,acc3e0404646c57502b480dc052c4fe1 Diane Keaton is just screaming to be on this list, and this film with 3 sisters and a meddling mother is a comforting exercise in voyeurism. And Pixar’s Brave – I love the circularity in that relationship, the growth experienced by both women and the understanding that comes with it. And The Kids Are All Right – there’s so much here in terms of a family coming to terms with shifting roles, and it’s striking how much the two mothers complement each other. And Sherrybaby. And Easy A (love Patricia Clarkson in that!). And Anywhere But Here. And Mother and Child. Nothing like a major health crisis to flush out your Netflix queue!

But fuck it. Steel Magnolias, baby. There, I said it. It’s goopy and sentimental but you know 5a64037be0d86f25_steel_jpeg_previewwhat? The relationship at its core, Sally Field and Julia Roberts, feels absolutely genuine. Julia Roberts plays a young woman with diabetes, and Sally Field the constantly-worried mother. Both are headstrong but you can tell that Mom is secretly proud that her daughter is determined not to let her illness stop her from living on her own terms. Sally Field will give anything, including body parts, to keep her daughter going, but when the worst happens, the grief and anger are palpable and real.  For my money, Sally Field talking to her comatose daughter is just about the most heart-wrenching tribute to motherhood you’re apt to find.

And Mermaids. I can’t help it. The family situation reminds me so much of my own – just a mom mermaidsposterand her girls on their own in the world. It’s not always easy, or friendly. When you fight you fight big, but you love big too. And the dancing in the kitchen: yes! I love Cher’s awkward stabs at motherhood – the funny little food and the ill-timed advice – and Christina Ricci’s weird little pumpkin-headed wiggles.

 

Now Voyager is the ultimate in family dysfunction. A hateful and over-bearing mother stifles her daughter NowVoyager-Still6(played by the inesteemable Bette Davis) into a nervous breakdown that turns out to be her weird salvation. Of course, upon return, the now glammed up and self-assured daughter is again reduced to a puddle in the face of her unfeeling mother.

A Heavenly Christmas

Eve (Kristin Davis) is a workaholic, ambitious stockbroker with no time for family or relationships (in fact, she claims to be in a long distance relationship… with her future boyfriend. That’s REALLY long distance!) and really no time for Christmas shenanigans.

So when she dies, her guardian angel Pearl (Shirley MacLaine), sends her back to Earth as a Christmas angel, to really stick it to her. She’s got the one week before Christmas to make a difference in someone’s life. That someone is a relative stranger, someone she once shared a cab with, a diner owner named Max (Eric McCormack) who dreamed of being a musician before he unexpectedly became a parent when his sister died and left her daughter in his care.

Anyway, it’s difficult to follow the usual Hallmark formula of :
MV5BZDQwYzdhMmQtYjgyMi00ZWJkLWJhY2ItMzljZGI4MjBiOTMxL2ltYWdlL2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDYwNTg3OQ@@._V1_1. learn to love Christmas; 2. fall in love
when you’re dead. I mean, fraternization between the live and the dead is difficult and frowned upon, and since she’s (hopefully) on her way, this would be an even longer distance than the potential future boyfriend. And there’s that pesky rule about not getting involved. That’s a toughie. And how much are his buddies going to tease him if he tells them he has a Ghost Girlfriend? It’s an awkward situation. God, they’re going to wish they were fighting over cabs again.

But at least there’s plenty of Christmas along the way: cookies, snowfall, trees, pageants, even caroling, and you know how much I hate caroling! And by the way, here in Ottawa, the local radio station is running a very age-ist contest. You have to bring a Christmas Carol (literally just a man or woman named Carol) to the pedestrian mall to possibly win 5k. Except honestly, who under 50 is named Carol anymore? No one, that’s who! This is pretty much the dumbest idea for a contest they’ve ever had, and believe me, they’ve had some doozies.

Anyway. Like all Hallmark movies, you can guess what’ll happen within the first 45 seconds, and the rest is just tinsel on your tree. Of course there two kinds of people: those who put tinsel on their tree, and those who don’t. I think tinsel is largely falling out of favour, but my mother was a tinselaholic. She believed there was a right way to drape tinsel on a tree, one piece at a time, clump-free. And what about your tree? Does it belong in a Hallmark movie, or is it a little more…eclectic?